Alaska Trip Retrospective

After our summer-long trip to Alaska, we’re traveling south through British Columbia, Canada, and the climate, sunlight, ecosystems—really everything—is all changing rapidly.  No more alpine or subalpine terrain, and it’s kind of shocking.  

I shouted out to Tracy when I saw a cow.  We both said, “Hey, look at this!” when we had to use the flashlight outside for the first time. I never thought I would be surprised by the existence of livestock or darkness, but that’s what happens when you spend three months in the north.


I looked through my blog posts so I could grab links and images to encompass the summer, but this also surprised me: nearly every single post seems like a highlight.  

I really did enjoy this trip, despite the cold and wet and dreariness that dominated it.

Wonderful Experiences

The stops we made with unexpected experiences stand out the most.

Such as the thrill of walking on tundra with permafrost underneath, which was especially spongy at Tombstone Provincial Park.

The famous stuff we knew would be amazing did not disappoint.  

Denali National Park took a while to figure out, with its closed sections and bus-only road, but worth the work.

Camping off what’s called the Denali Highway (originally, the only road to the park) was seriously just as amazing. The whole of the Alaska Range was visible alongside us, with its glaciers and notable peaks, and in front were glacier ponds, and moose.

On the way to and from Alaska, a real joy has been spending time with Canadians, especially Yukoners. They’ve been welcoming; their roads are in fairly good shape; campgrounds offer free firewood; they leave kayaks and canoes around lakes for rental on the honor system; the First Nations heritage and the wrongs done to them are acknowledged publically.

Here we’re celebrating Canada Day in Dawson City, appreciating a radical mayoral speech.


Wildlife viewing this whole trip has felt spotty, mostly because our expectations were so high. Warning signs about wildlife are everywhere, and people in Travel-to-Alaska Facebook groups post seemingly endlessly their amazing wildlife photos.

Heck, Doug and Melanie had a grizzly bear trot down the road right into front of them. Carl watched moose saunter through his campground. Our claim to fame was having a black bear in our campsite, but that happened early on and wasn’t repeated. We did see orcas near Seward, coastal brown bears eating salmon in Haines, and city-dwelling moose in Anchorage—those were thrilling. Best of all was the huge, furry grey wolf that ran in front of me while I was hiking above Eklunta Lake. I would trade half these photos for one of that.

My dream, though, was to see lots of moose, up close if possible, and that was a let down.  Officially, I am moosappointed.

I also feel regret when I think that the places I remember the fondest are places I shared with friends. Really, I should have worked harder to meet up with Doug and Melanie and Carl.  Universal rule: Sharing makes everything better.

What I Haven’t Blogged About

White Swans and Black Ravens

I don’t have picture of the many, many pairs of trumpeter swans we’ve seen. They nest up here in the summers, so you’ll see them in ponds and lakes, two dots of white. One of us will say simply, “Swans,” and the other knows where to look.

Especially in Yukon, ravens are everywhere. Even after I figured out that the otherworldly sound I was hearing in the trees was a bird, I kept questioning it. Their voices are like small machines doing something underwater. Or, frogs talking to the gods from up in the trees? Finally, I understand why they play such a large role in the world up here. It’s because this is their land.

Sad Moose and Proud Moose

Wildlife warning signs are everywhere, such that you start noticing different styles among them. The one on the left would make me warn Tracy that Sad Moose were about, and on the right meant watch out for Proud Moose.

Turns out I’m not the only one to notice Sad Moose: a young woman in BC got frustrated with the depiction and created Proud Moose and submitted it to the transportation department. How very Canadian!

I also noticed Fancy Caribou and Plain Caribou. (I think Plain Caribou might actually be Fancy Elk.)

The antlers Tracy found used to be from a fancy caribou but have been gnawed down by various critters so now they’re plain.

Camping Weirdness

I’m not sure I’ve posted about the assortment of homemade rigs we’ve encountered, and on repeat because there are so few roads up here. Alaska is all about the homemade.

You’ll be glad I didn’t document the trail of tampon applicators we were on briefly. Which reminds me of the bicyclist who asked if she could share our boondocking spot off the Denali Highway. She set up her small tent next to our big tent, got in her small tent, and proceeded to masterbate. Lady, I’m pretty sure that’s considered bad camping etiquette.

The Best $40 and Hours of Study

I’ve mentioned before how there’s no cell signal in Yukon and little nearby, and for Starlink use, Musk has put few satellites in orbit this far north, so we’ve been planning and driving with old-fashioned paper references.

The book, The Milepost, is what Tracy studied back in Brownsville this past winter and used to plan our basic route. I was entirely intimidated by it but had to start using it up here, and man am I glad I took the time to learn how. It’s updated every year, with notes mile-by-mile on road conditions, pull-offs, history, heads-up about good views, on and on.

What a challenge for my non-spatial, non-mathematical brain, though! Each entry begins with up to six numbers: miles from certain landmarks (and kilometers from them), then miles (and kilometers) from other landmarks. You have to figure out what mile (or kilometer) you’re at in real life, then where that’s near in the book, and then which direction you’re traveling in compared to that section of the book. the trick for me has been that, If the narrative flows east and you’re driving west, then you need to read that section backwards. Which adds to the challenge. Let’s say there’s a warning of seven miles of narrow, windy road. You’ll have to read ahead (which would be backwards) to see that warning before you get to the seven-mile stretch.

I’ve had The Milepost open in my lap with stickies on pages where I have to switch sections at road junctions, a pen in hand, plus my Sourtoe Cocktail Club certificate as a bookmark. Add my iPad underneath with the downloaded Google Map for general reference, my camera, and my iPhone for our music, and Mission Control for the drive has been entirely in my lap. Of course, Tracy is the Mission Planner and Pilot; I just shout out stuff right after we pass it.

I’ve officially retired my Milepost, and now I feel like this is my Goodbye Alaska post, and I’m reluctant to close it out. I guess that’s a benefit of blogging: I can come back and add memories when I want. It’s a difficult task to capture the experience of a summer of travel around Alaska, though, so maybe I will just post this and move on.

6 thoughts to “Alaska Trip Retrospective”

  1. I wonder if the wildlife thing is a product of social media? You’re jealous of other peoples’ carefully curated online posting, but from my perspective you’ve seen so much and I’m crazy jealous! And the wolf photo would never live up to the perfect image you’ll always have in your mind. The rest of us know what a wolf looks like and wouldn’t get the thrill from the photo that you got. A description, and Tracy’s reenactment, does us just fine!

    1. I agree about social media for sure. Plus, we saw so much marshy low land that looked like it would have moose in it, so I spent a lot of time searching.

      And you are so right about the wolf photo! My feelings from the moment might be ruined with a blurry shot. I’d forgotten Tracy’s reenactment!

    1. To her credit, she was in her own tent, but it was right beside ours. She pulled up, pitched her tent with the opening toward the mountains, and then enjoyed the view her own way. Yessiree.